by Yumi Unita
published by Yen Press; $13.99 US
If you liked Book 5, Book 6 continues the story of Rin as a teenager. Me, I already have enough shojo school stories to read, so I still miss the tales of life with a little girl. I suppose this feeling can be reinterpreted as an accurate portrayal of how life is really like when you have a kid, that they all grow up eventually and don’t stay cute forever. I don’t want to read about that part, though.
Now, if they’d jumped ahead to Rin trying to make it as a young woman in the world, I’d be interested in that, especially given Yumi Unita’s art style, with its long lines and limbs. It would be well-suited to a josei manga, I think.
Instead, here, childhood friend Kouki has a crush on Rin, complicated by his scary ex-girlfriend and various flavors of jealousy. It all feels much too familiar, as though I’ve read it so many times before, that I was bored. There was one element, though, that was a bit different; that was a wordless sequence of the characters staring at each other, just missing seeing what each other is thinking, after Kouku gets his hair cut by another girl. Unita also does a good job with the tension and uncertainty Rin feels as she gets harrassed by email.
The last chapter crystallizes key elements of Rin’s personality (and shows how she’s a bit too good to be true, frankly). She’s upset over Kouki, so she makes herself a new dress. It’s her birthday, and when her friends come over to celebrate, they haven’t thought things through, so she winds up directing the party so everyone has a good time. Her desire to be useful and work hard defines her personality, a very Japanese approach.
Book 7 returns to the family drama, as Rin begins wondering about her mother. She and Kouki are still negotiating how to relate to one another, and Rin’s only girl friend, Reina, has begun dating. Relationships are changing, as everyone’s aging. Rin’s adoptive dad Daikichi has an attack of back trouble, creating a role reversal situation where she’s taking care of him and causing him to worry about how the rest of his life is going to go.
This scene, which drives following chapters, is illustrated in striking fashion. It took me a double-take to realize what I was seeing, since Unita draws two skeletons, to symbolize the bones, with a lightning bolt to represent the searing strike of sudden pain. It’s so weird and sudden, just like the event it represents.
The themes in this volume I could much more relate to, since they deal with parental relationships throughout life. Daikichi appreciates Rin’s care when he needs it, but he doesn’t want to be a burden to her finding her own way in life. Yet she’ll always be his child to him, even though their relationship isn’t traditional.